My reading occurs in spurts and stops: sometimes I read a lot...at other times I read little beyond the daily paper and The New Yorker. When I was single, I usually had two or three books that I was reading - none of which was likely to be fiction. However, as I've grown older (I was single for all of my 40s), I find myself reading fiction. In the period of mid-2004 to mid-2005, I checked out (and read 99% of) more than 110 books from the local public library. Astoundingly, about 60% of the books were fiction. Since becoming an active volunteer, my reading has become, as I mentioned above, a matter of spurts and stops - and it has become 90% fiction. [Please note that in discussing "reading", I am only including the reading of books - printed on paper. My internet reading is, aside from blog reading, confined to non-fiction.]
Having finished a rather large project in my Volunteer Endeavors, last Thursday, I stopped in at the library on my way home. The photo (below) shows the books that I picked up in the few minutes when I was there. (BTW: the title of the Tom Clancy book is Against All Enemies. I would have taken another photo, hopefully without the glare, but the battery needed charging.)
Tony Hillerman has written some of my favorite books of fiction. They are interesting enough, and gripping enough, that I nearly always gulp them down in one day - two, tops! Unfortunately, I did not discover Mr Hillerman's work until 2007, only one year before his death. I was surprised, Thursday, to find one of his books that I had not already read in our library's collection.
Until The Fly on the Wall, all of the Hillerman books that I had read were mysteries centered in my beloved New Mexico, rife with details of the locale and Native American traditions and life. Delicious! However, The Fly on the Wall is a mystery centered in a fictional mid-western state's capital city where the Democratic Party holds sway - during the approach to a primary election. (Well, one "act" was thrown in from the San Juan Mountains and Santa Fe. I could smell the piñon smoke from the hotel's fireplace!) The protagonist is a political reporter who is assigned to the capitol.
This book did not in the least disappoint me. Please note that one of the pleasures of reading the book is that, not once is a cell phone, or iPad, or PC mentioned. The book was published in 1971!
I present a few paragraphs from The Fly on the Wall, The paragraphs contain dialogue between the protagonist (John Cottan) and one of his cronies (Hall) from another newspaper.
"The great electorate," Hall said. "The citizenry of the state. You think, Give 'em the facts and they'll make the right decisions. But they're not reading past the headlines. They're watching I Love Lucy and getting their instant political wisdom from some former disc jockey with a sincere smile on the ten-o'clock news. The bastard couldn't name the National Committeeman for you, but he's got credibility because they like his teeth."
Cotton said nothing.
"Cousin John, we've sold ourselves a bill of goods, you and Junior and I, and Volney and all of us. We buy this business of give them the facts and man decides in his enlightened self-interest. How about changing it--being realistic? Deciding that sometimes they're not going to digest the facts and come to the enlightened conclusion. You know it's true. You've seen it, time after time." Hall looked up, his eyes on Cotton's eyes. "How about making a selection sometimes of what facts they can handle--giving them what's good for them?"
"You feel like playing God? Cotton laughed. "I'm not ready for it."
"O.K.," Hall said. "Forget it."
Yesterday, while reading an article in The New Yorker, I (heretofore an atheist) became a believer.1 ; -¶
The article, included in the Annals of Science department is The Mosquito Solution: Can genetic modification eliminate a deadly tropical disease? by Michael Specter (The New Yorker, July 9 & 16, 2012). Writing on one theory of controlling, if not eradicating, dengue - caused by a pathogen transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, Mr Specter wrote the following:
"There is no vaccine or cure for dengue, or even a useful treatment. The only way to fight the disease has been to poison the insects that carry it. That means bathing yards, roads, and public parks in a fog of insecticide. Now there is another approach, promising but experimental: a British biotechnology company called Oxitec has developed a method to modify the genetic structure of the male Aedes mosquito, essentially transforming it into a mutant capable of destroying its own species."
From the above fragement of a paragraph, I immediately formed a mental picture of the male mosquitoes - out there with their machetes, destroying their own offspring.2 This led me to think that there really is a god who has genetically engineered people to destroy themselves. How else to explain our inability to, as Rodney King would have had us do, "...all just get along." Our aggressions - leading to wars, mass killings, environmental degredations - are killing us. How better to explain it than genetic modification?
1 ; -¶ An emoticon to indicate "tongue-in-cheek"
2 The mechanism is actually that, "Eggs fertilized by...genetically modified males will hatch normally, but soon after, and well before the new mosquitoes can fly, the fatal genes will prevail, killing them all." Previously cited article from The New Yorker